I grew up in Reston, Virginia.
Unless you’re from the Washington D.C. area I doubt you’ve ever heard of it. But my hometown almost became the epicenter of a major outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in 1989. The incident at a monkey quarantine facility in Reston inspired the bestselling Richard Preston book The Hot Zone.
Fortunately the variation of Ebola found in Reston was non-pathogenic to humans. Still, just 15 miles from Washington DC, our country dodged a bullet when teams managed to contain and stop the Ebola mutation that had found its way to my hometown.
The Ebola disease is back in the news and this current outbreak is spreading.
While the mortality rate is around 60%, lower than with previous outbreaks of the Ebola virus, the outbreak is very serious. Experts are calling this Ebola outbreak the most serious ever, with victims in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and now Nigeria.
The Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 700 lives in West Africa.
With travel restrictions and warnings in place, health organizations and governments are doing everything they can to stop the outbreak.
So what are businesses doing to stop Ebola outbreak?
Currently there are no approved vaccines or drugs to treat Ebola. All doctors can do is give patients fluid and try to stop the bleeding that Ebola causes.
One company, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: BCRX), is working hard to change that. BioCryst is currently testing a drug that could be used to treat hemorrhagic fevers such as the Ebola virus and its close relative, the Marburg virus.
The company has yet to test its drug on humans and its first trial was conducted on monkeys infected with the Marburg virus, not the Ebola virus.
But these results were very promising.
All of the monkeys to receive BioCryst’s experimental drug BCX4430 within 48 hours of infection with the Marburg virus survived the testing period. All of the monkeys in the control group – those that were not treated with BioCryst’s drug – died within the two week trial period.
BCX4430 was also effective in protecting mice from both the Marburg and Ebola viruses. Guinea pigs treated with BCX4430 were protected from Marburg, Ebola and yellow fever.
But BCX4430 isn’t just for the Ebola and Marburg viruses. BioCryst is working on the drug as part of a government contract to develop a drug capable of fighting or preventing a host of potential outbreak and bioterrorism threats.
BioCryst’s Chief Medical Officer had this to say about the potential of BCX4430:
A single broad-spectrum agent that treats a range of RNA virus threats, such as BCX4430, presents an efficient one-drug, multi-bug strategic option against high-priority pathogens for the U.S. Government and offers promise as a treatment for patients infected in natural outbreaks.
In other words, if the drug is effective – and early indications suggest that the drug is extremely effective – it could be a vital tool in defending the world against bioterrorism and naturally occurring outbreaks.
Just because this drug has the potential to stop the Ebola outbreak doesn’t mean that buying BioCryst stock is a smart move. Tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the company behind the hugely promising BCX4430 drug and whether it makes sense to invest.
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